Carlos Alcazar
Grupo Covix

Control Rooms for Swift and Accurate Monitoring

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 12:27

The operations of any oil company imply countless terabytes of data flowing throughout the company’s systems. Having the correct set of data at the precise moment is crucial to make the best decisions. “Control and monitoring centers help achieve better visibility of the huge amounts of data that oil companies have to manage,” asserts Carlos Alcázar Barragán, President of Grupo Covix. “These monitoring centers, also known as control rooms, are chambers where operators monitor data and video via information systems that help streamline the interpretation process. From these control rooms, PEMEX executives and directors have access to all relevant operational information and are able to respond to emergencies, while they also serve as communication centers to keep platform personnel in touch with field operators,” Alcázar Barragán adds.

Grupo Covix started out 30 years ago by selling and distributing Hewlett Packard equipment. When the computer industry became increasingly competitive, the company decided to venture into the projection equipment industry. “We found it interesting to project detailed things onto big screens,” Alcázar Barragán comments. At a time when projection monitors were monochromatic, Grupo Covix signed exclusive distribution deals with companies such as Canadian Electrohome Limited, which provided polychromatic alternatives. Following that strategy, the company signed distribution agreements with brands such as Planar, DVE, Orion, and Salitek, among others. As the projection equipment industry grew rapidly due to its core technology becoming more and more mobile, Grupo Covix decided to scale up again and venture into the development of management centers. “We were convinced that there was a way of providing added value to our customers that bought projection equipment,” Alcázar Barragán remembers. “We integrated several components and equipment to build massive control centers that could project all the information needed at a given time. We have been providing this service for almost 20 years now.”

Around 2003, public companies started looking for suppliers that could gather information from different facilities nationwide and combine it on monitors for easier evaluation and assessment. “PEMEX was interested, so we built our first control room for them in Ciudad del Carmen,” recalls Juan Carlos Alcázar Giordano, Commercial Director of Grupo Covix. After that first center, several other control rooms were set up in Ciudad del Carmen to monitor different platforms. “PEMEX was so happy with our service that we were hired to put together the Boardroom at PEMEX’s headquarters.” Each monitoring center has at least one videowall that displays high definition streams of video and data, according to each user’s needs. In the case of PEMEX, the information displayed in the videowall varies from site to site. A platform might include drilling data, PVT parameters, oil production, time of operation, and video of the facilities, among other indicators. The Corporate Boardroom could display data such as production per asset, variance in production, investment versus results, production cost, price per oil barrel produced, and ROI of each asset. This information can also be integrated and shared through collaboration systems in order to deliver data, video, or audio to different control rooms or videowalls across Mexico. “Collaboration has become a popular subject as of late,” says Alcazar Barragán. “Information used to be confined within the walls of control rooms; now directors can be in the field and receive that information straight to their phone or tablet.” However, in order to ensure that the information remains confidential and is not widely distributed over an open network, the system has several electronic locks and encryption systems that even allow the receiving of livestreams without risking the security of that information.

In order to train people to use its systems and videowalls, Grupo Covix offers introduction sessions where decisionmakers are shown how to quickly sift through the information displayed in tactile screens. “The challenge is having too much information,” says Alejandro Mendoza, Administrative Director of Grupo Covix. “We pride ourselves on offering the best tools available to manage this information in a swift, easy, and versatile way. We involve our clients in the process to better understand their needs and we then tailor a control room to their operation. We then create hypothetic scenarios through dummy data of the type the client will be handling and program tablets to display it. Although we are not allowed to see their information, we help them to understand how to access the key indicators more easily,” he concludes.

Besides corporate boardrooms and control rooms at platforms, Grupo Covix has designed several other monitoring rooms for similar purposes. “We put together a Center for Emergency Attention and Response (CRAE) in Ciudad del Carmen and one in Villahermosa. During 2004, we built the Master Control Center at PEMEX Refining’s headquarters, and the control room on the 44th floor of the PEMEX Tower. We have recently been involved in the design of the Emergency Operations Centers in Reynosa, La Venta, and Boca del Rio,” enlists Alcázar Giordano. “We also work with PEMEX contractors and integrators in their framework agreements by providing decision-making rooms for EPC projects for platforms, pipelines, refineries, or plants.” Large-Scale System Integrators (LSSIs) are also interested in these solutions to minimize the risks of losing oil in the hydrocarbon transportation business. “LSSIs such as Siemens, ABB Group, or Honeywell that develop software and SCADA systems use our control rooms to monitor the hydrocarbon flow, in order to minimize the risk of leaks and detect them more quickly,” Alcázar Giordano says. This gives them the opportunity to react quicker and save money for the operator